People are sick of being packed off to tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it seems. Increasingly, the 21st century traveler wants to get his or her feet dirty while treading off the beaten path. Many in Asia have seen the light and started businesses which target these consumers who are looking for local activities like cooking Japanese cuisine with an Obasan (“Aunt” in Japanese) and free diving in Bali.
We have covered two of these Asian startups looking to cash in on this trend earlier — Triip and Voyagin. Started in Vietnam, Triip covers eight countries, namely Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos and Myanmar. Voyagin, a competitor founded in Japan, curates tours to five countries — Japan, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Aside from these two, myRealTrip Inc. is a company in South Korea which sends travelers all over the globe with curated tours and experiences.
The difference between myRealTrip and the aforementioned two is that the latter deals with trips to Europe, North America and Asia. Founded by a team of four: Dongkeon Lee (CEO), Minseo Baek (CSO), Sungjae Lee (Operation head), and Jaehyun Shin (CTO) in 2011, myRealTrip secured KRW400 million (US$357,765) in funding from early stage VC firm BonAngels and other investors.
In an email interview, Minseo shared that a total of 4,000 reservations have been made so far. The business covers tours from more than 40 countries with some 140 cities.
Minseo shared, “We seek for collaboration with traditional travel tycoons in Korea; with one of the dominant free individual travel agency, we are now working on uploading some of our travel experience available on their website so that we could get more exposure from free individual travelers. [These travelers are those] who book air tickets and hotels individually, and are potential customers for our guide service.” She added that in summer, cities like Barcelona, Paris and Vienna, and Japan garner the most number of reservations.
I had earlier assumed that myRealTrip’s key target audience would be those in their early to late twenties, with a heart for faraway places. I was wrong. Minseo shared that their customers are mostly Koreans, with a handful of Japanese and other nationalities, in their thirties to fifties. These are usually parents on family trips, young professionals on a vacation, or middle-aged professionals heading overseas for academic seminars or business trips.
She added, “They are too busy to prepare A-Z for their vacation but are keen to have great quality experience while traveling. Since they have enough purchase power, they don’t mind spending more money on hiring tour guides to guarantee great quality travel experience and furthermore, try local, off-the-beat tour experience sometimes.”
Since their target audience are mostly Korean folks, Minseo shared that they are holding back on having English content for now.
Current set of challenges
As a platform, Minseo shared that they are facing a couple of big challenges, like quality control and user acquisition. As for quality control they carefully curate every guide and experience to ensure user satisfaction. “We would like to provide a marketplace perfectly suited for their needs, and can easily convey what they want from the travel experience. For this, we try to make sure that the characteristics and nature of each guide and their travel experience is well-understood to travelers upon their visit to our website.”
She added that they register a guide using a simple four-step process:
1) Guides to fill up a registration form
2) Skype interview between the two
3) Any modification on the form (if required)
4) Submitting a copy of their identification card
Minseo shared, “During the interview, we make sure that the guides are well-versed and know well about their neighborhood area. If they seem under-qualified or if their tour description needs modification, we ask them for re-application. As for some of the top destinations, such as Paris or Vienna, we run ‘student ambassador’ system and send the ambassadors for a test-run.”
Both traditional and online to expand
Here’s a thought: Is the online travel scene cannibalizing the traditional market? Minseo expects both markets to expand. She said, “Traditional travel market that is represented with phone call booking [and], franchise agency visit. [P]ackaged tours are expected to grow continuously. At the same time, however, the ratio of people preparing travel online or mobile is expected to grow even more rapidly, with the preference for convenience and individualized travel experience.”